James Jones heads to Portland

The Suns agreed Thursday night to a trade that will send swingman James Jones to Portland as part of the deal that had the Trail Blazers buying Phoenix's 24th pick for $3 million.

Portland is allowed to take a player without returning one because they acquired a trade exception in the Zach Randolph deal with the New York Knicks.

The deal, confirmed by two league sources, may not become official until next week because of pending physicals.

The move is another one to help reduce the Suns' luxury tax next year. Jones was slated to make $2.9 million this season and $3.15 million in the final year of his contract in 2008-09.

Jones, 26, played the past two seasons for the Suns in the role of long-distance shooter and sound defender. He played 18.1 minutes per game last season and averaged 6.4 points on 36.8 percent field-goal shooting, including 37.8 percent on three-pointers.


Huff hits for cycle, but Angels prevail - Former Astro just third Oriole to accomplish feat

BALTIMORE — Aubrey Huff had a night to remember. The Los Angeles Angels got a victory to savor.

Huff hit for the cycle, but the Angels got a tiebreaking two-run homer from Howie Kendrick in the ninth inning and beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-7 on Friday night.

Huff tripled in the second inning, doubled in the fourth, hit a three-run homer in the fifth and singled to center in the seventh. He left for a pinch-runner after going 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

"Obviously for me, that's probably one of the most special days of my baseball career," said Huff, who played for the Astros last season.

Braun showing confidence for Brewers

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Ryan Braun didn't necessarily need any votes of confidence from Milwaukee Brewers management, but that did not stop them from giving him some.

With J.J. Hardy returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of the 2006 season and reclaimed his shortstop position, the Brewers decided to move club MVP Bill Hall from shortstop to center field.

When third baseman Corey Koskie in spring training never recovered from post-concussion syndrome, the Brewers refrained from moving Hall to third, thus going with a platoon of veterans Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell.

After that pair struggled for the better part of two months, the Brewers summoned Braun.

"That's something that meant a lot to me," Braun said. "They certainly believe in my abilities, and I just wanted to get up here and help the team win as many games as possible and make that decision look like a good one."

Torrid Michaels rises up - Three-run homer saves day for Tribe in come-from-behind win against A's

CLEVELAND - Jason Michaels is the Indians' hitter with a hot hand, or maybe two when he grabs a bat.

It was Michaels' three-run homer in the seventh inning that propelled the Tribe to another come-from-behind win against the Oakland Athletics, this time 4-3 on Thursday afternoon at Jacobs Field.

Michaels is sneaking up on the public consciousness as a guy who counts. That was not the case last year, when he generated little excitement, a natural consequence of a .267 batting average, nine home runs and 55 RBI in 494 at-bats.

Martin Bibla, Receives AFL All-Rookie Team Honors

PHILADELPHIA -The Arena Football League announced today that Philadelphia Soul OL Martin Bibla, OL Phil Bogle and DL Bryan Save were named to the AFL's All-Rookie Team. Philadelphia led all AFL teams with three players receiving the honor.

Bibla (6'3", 310, Miami) has been the quiet lineman who has not received much publicity. He started all 16 regular season games for the Soul and was part of a front line that only allowed nine sacks all season that ranked seventh in the League. He was a big acquisition to the Blue and Grey in an effort to build a solid offensive line. Bibla spent five years in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons before coming to the Soul.


Phillies Notebook: Burrell On The Bench Again

A return to Citizens Bank Park did nothing to change Pat Burrell's current role with the Phillies.

Burrell found himself out of the starting lineup for the fifth time in eight games Tuesday, with rookie Michael Bourn making his second straight start in left field. Bourn had three hits and two RBIs in Sunday's 5-1 win over St. Louis, earning him another start.

The slumping Burrell hasn't had a three-hit game since May 11. He entered Tuesday hitting .127 with a .291 slugging percentage in June, dropping his overall average to .205. Burrell's average stood at .344 through 20 games, but he began Tuesday hitting .146 since then.

Manager Charlie Manuel dodged questions about whether he still considered Burrell his regular left fielder, saying Burrell would still get chances to play. How many chances remains to be seen.

Piazza discovers he can't retire his glove yet

NEW YORK -- Still die-hard two seasons later, Mike Piazza's fans were lined up outside Shea Stadium early yesterday afternoon.

Some held scraps of paper. Others magazines. Still others pictures for their hero to sign. One fan even held a prediction, all but guaranteeing that the former Mets catcher would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his time came and that atop his bust would be a Mets cap.

But Piazza, now with the Oakland Athletics, has much more immediate concerns than his choice of headgear for Cooperstown. After spending the past six weeks on the disabled list with a shoulder sprain, Piazza has been asked by the A's to, when he is fully healthy, become a catcher once again.

Guillermo Diaz Update

In other news, Guillermo Diaz, a second-round pick from last season, will be on the Clippers' summer league team and has a shot at making the roster.


Burrell's slump causing plenty of problems

The concerns seem to have faded into frustration or resignation.

Maybe that's because Phillies fans have seen this before. They remember 2003.

Leftfielder Pat Burrell is struggling like he struggled four years ago, when he hit .209 with 21 home runs and 64 RBIs. He is hitting .205 with eight homers and 31 RBIs this season, and is on pace to finish with 17 homers and 66 RBIs. Burrell is hitting .127 since May 30 and .146 since April 25.

His .376 slugging percentage ranks 52d out of 63 outfielders in baseball.

"Anytime you're not doing well, yeah, you're going to be frustrated," said Burrell, who has been benched four times in the last seven games. "You've just got to keep going out there and working."

Vote of confidence, sort of, for Burrell - Despite slump, Phils not giving up on once-heralded college star

ST. LOUIS -- It hardly seems possible now, but in three seasons at the University of Miami, Pat Burrell batted .442, the seventh-highest career average in NCAA history.

"Pat Burrell was the best college hitter I've ever seen," Miami coach Jim Morris told The News Journal last week. "I'm not only talking about hitters I've coached. I'm talking about all the hitters I've seen in 29 years."

And that's what makes Burrell -- and what he's become -- so perplexing.

Burrell, the Phillies' highest-paid player at $13 million this season, didn't start Sunday for the fourth time in seven games. An eight-week slump has dropped his average to .205, the lowest it's been this late in a season since he was batting .204 on Sept. 3, 2003.

Bat ready, Piazza must get arm loose

It was as incongruous a sight as you could have on a Friday night at Shea: Mike Piazza, wearing the green and gold of the Oakland Athletics, sitting on a stool in front of a giant American League logo outside the visiting clubhouse, talking about losing his designated hitter job to the immortal Jack Cust.

Piazza, who has been on the disabled list since May 3 with a sprained right shoulder, is ready to play -- ready to hit, at least -- but the A's don't want him as their DH anymore. That was kind of the whole point of his switching leagues, wasn't it?

No, the A's want Piazza behind the plate, at least some of the time, so he's going to spend the next two weeks working himself into catching shape.

BILLS: Parrish fights to change his image

There was a running joke in the Buffalo Bills media room during April’s NFL Draft. It centered on the Miami Dolphins’ selection of Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr. with the ninth overall pick.

“The Dolphins just drafted Roscoe Parrish,” the joke went.

Whether that’s an insult to Ginn or a complement to Parrish, the Buffalo Bills third-year receiver, remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, Parrish doesn’t care for the comparison.

“I don’t compare myself to anyone at all. I’ve been in this league longer than him (Ginn),” he said.

Unfortunately for Parrish, as long as he and Ginn are battling each other in the AFC East, the comparisons will continue. Both receivers are small by NFL standards, with Parrish listed at 5-foot-9, 171 pounds and Ginn at 5-foot-11, 178 pounds. Both players also excel on punt returns.